Review: Belkin Access Folio Stand for iPad 2
Representing an effort by Belkin to improve on the classic folio design, Access Folio Stand for iPad 2 ($40) has a pretty novel extra to set itself apart from the pack: an accessory pocket, an extra that doesn't typically appear in folios. Sewn right onto the front cover, the pocket would justify some interest on its own, if not for the poor craftsmanship exhibited in the rest of the case.
Access Folio Stand’s exterior is made out of a canvas-like nylon and feels pretty good; the pocket is composed of the same material. Two pieces of Velcro hold the pocket shut, and it is lined with a soft fabric that’s not seen anywhere else on the case. While it ends up being a little awkward, the pocket has room for something as thick as an iPad wall adapter; cables and headphones create less of a bulge. It ends up being one of those things that is cooler in concept than execution. What’s obviously missing from the front cover is something to hold it shut: there is no snap, band, or other mechanism for keeping the case closed when not in use.
Like most folios, Access Folio Stand’s right half serves as a slide-in pocket for the iPad 2. The tablet is secured in place by a full length flap, which combined with the grip of the material ensures that the iPad 2 will not move. A thick frame covers most of the bezel, with a large inverted U opening for the front camera and ambient light sensor. Instead of using the same kind of cutout for the Home Button, Belkin actually covers it up with rubber. Thankfully, the Home button actually remains very responsive, even though the cover is not quite centered.
As with many folios we have seen for the iPad 2, it appears that Belkin was not quite sure how to tackle the device’s tapered sides. The material sandwiched between the frame and back nylon cover is slightly angled, but certainly not flush with the body of the tablet. Because of this, the Sleep/Wake button, side switch, and volume buttons are a bit recessed, but still usable without the need for long nails. On the bottom the Dock Connector is fully exposed, but just a bit off center, while the openings for the speaker don’t really correspond to the proper location on the device; the speaker is on the back, and the holes are on the bottom. While audio quality is not impacted, it doesn’t look quite right. The real problem is along the top edge. Just like the Dock Connector, the microphone is accessible even though it doesn’t line up quite right with the case; the headphone port, on the other hand, is misaligned enough to cause a problem. Without tugging and pulling on the case to position the opening correctly, it was inaccessible on our review unit.
The biggest problem we saw with Access Folio Stand was the incredibly rough—and what appeared rushed—finish, especially around the edges and seams. We noticed frayed threads and exposed glue on the front of the case immediately upon removing it from its packaging. Upon further inspection, the same could be said about the top, bottom, and left hand corners—and pretty much everywhere else two pieces of material met one another. The back flap showed loose threads, and even the Velcro on the inside of the pocket was ragged. We were really disappointed to see such shoddy quality from such a well known, well-respected company; Access Folio Stand looks like it was assembled in a hurry by a not particularly competent factory. This is the rare case where assembly torpedoed what would otherwise have been a much higher rating.
While it started with a somewhat unique concept, Access Folio Stand’s execution is underwhelming, and the workmanship is inexcusably weak. Yes, the materials feel nice and the innovation is appreciated, but a premium company such as Belkin shouldn’t have let such a poorly put together case make it out of the factory. Retooled and properly assembled, we would have recommended this case to people who like to carry one or two small accessories with their iPad. In its current state, however, most people will be better off either waiting for a fixed version or going with a traditional folio instead.